Pittsburgh is in for the first time, Washington staged a remarkable comeback. Nebraska won without its best player.
Texas, Florida, and Purdue all won in four, and Kentucky, which hit .450, also advanced Sunday and joined Wisconsin — which played on Saturday — into Monday’s NCAA Tournament regional finals in Omaha.
It sets up a regional-finals Monday that has (all times Eastern):
Pittsburgh vs. No 6 Washington, noon
No. 5 Nebraska vs. No. 4 Texas, 2:30 p.m.
No. 8 Florida vs. No. 1 Wisconsin, 6:30 p.m.
No. 7 Purdue vs. No. 2 Kentucky, 9 p.m
Of the final eight, three teams are from the Big Ten (Wisconsin, Nebraska, Purdue), two are from the SEC (Kentucky, Florida), and there is one each from the Pac-12 (Washington), ACC (Pitt), and Big 12 (Texas). All but Pitt were seeded and none of the teams are from outside the Power 5 conferences.
Also Saturday in NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball, Belmont Abbey won the Conference Carolinas tournament title and the NCAA automatic bid that goes with it.
PITT OUSTS MINNESOTA — Pitt wasn’t seeded but that hasn’t kept the Panthers (19-4) from knocking off seeds in back-to-back matches. Sunday they ousted No. 3 Minnesota (16-3) 21-25, 25-23, 20-25, 25-11, 15-11 to vault Pitt into the NCAA regional final for the first time.
Pitt, an at-large from the ACC, a league in which it went 12-0 this spring, has won 15 in a row. The Panthers, who swept LIU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, then swept 14th-seeded Utah.
Chinaza Ndee led with 19 kills, two digs, and four blocks. Kayla Lund, the two-time ACC player of the year, had 17 kills and an assist, an ace, 10 digs, and a block. Chiamaka Nwokolo had a career-high 13 kills with two errors in 17 attacks to hit .647 and she had three blocks. Valeria Vazquez Gomez had nine kills, an assist, a block, and 17 digs. Sabrina Starks had six kills, two digs, and eight blocks, two solo.
Lexis Akeo had 27 assists and five digs and Kylee Levers had 33 assists and 10 digs. Their team hit .205 after having 70 kills and 32 errors in 185 attacks.
Stephanie Samedy led Minnesota with 23 kills, nine digs, and six blocks. Taylor Landfair had 15 kills, two digs, and two blocks, and Adanna Rollins had 15 kills, hit .344, and had an assist, an ace, eight digs, and five blocks.
Regan Pittman had just three kills, but 11 blocks to go with an assist, an ace, and four digs.
Melanie Shaffmaster had two kills, 50 assists, an ace, 13 digs, and three blocks. Rachel Kilkelly had 16 digs and six assists, and Jenna Wenaas had 11 digs.
WASHINGTON RALLIES PAST CARDS — The sixth-seeded Huskies are living on the NCAA edge. First the Pac-12 champions (19-3) had to go five to get past Dayton on Thursday. Then Sunday, they had the comeback of comebacks, going on a 10-2 run in the fifth set to beat 11th-seeded Louisville 25-23, 21-25, 21-25, 25-14, 15-13.
Washington seemed out of it in the fifth, down 11-5, when it sided out on a kill by Claire Hoffman. At that point seldom-used Russian senior Maria Bogomolova came in to serve. Bogomolova, who up to that point this spring season had three aces and 11 digs, served an ace. She continued to serve tough and Louisville had back-to-back hitting errors and it was 11-9 when the Cardinals called time.
Back-to-back kills by Hoffman tied it and then Bogomolova had another ace. Finally, she served an error that left the score tied at 12. Bogomolova, who had not changed facial expression through the run and had come up with four digs, one spectacular off her chest, broke into a big smile as coach Keegan Cook embraced her.
But the match was far from over. Louisville went up 13-12 on a kill by Claire Chaussee, but a kill by Marin Grote tied it and then Washington won on back-to-back hitting errors, a description which really doesn’t do justice to the intensity of the rallies.
Hoffman led the Huskies with 20 kills as she hit .318 and had an assist, two aces, 11 digs, and three blocks. Samantha Drechsel had 13 kills, six assists, 10 digs, and three blocks. Madi Endsley had 11 kills, two digs, and two blocks, and Grote had eight kills with one error in 16 attacks, an assist, two digs, and five blocks. Lauren Sanders had seven kills, a dig, and seven blocks.
Ella May Powell had six kills in 15 errorless attempts, 45 asissts, an ace, 16 digs, and two blocks. Her team hit .203. Shannon Crenshaw had 19 digs, five assists, and two aces. Bogomolova, as mentioned, finished with three aces and four digs, and the thin 6-foot-1 outside from St. Petersburg cried uncontrollably after the match.
Louisville, the ACC champion whose season ended 15-3, got 17 kills from Anna DeBeer, who had 13 digs and two blocks. Chaussee had 13 kills, two digs, and four blocks. Aiko Jones had 10 kills, two aces, three digs, and five blocks. Amaya Tillman had seven kills in 14 errorless attacks and 10 blocks.
Tori Dilfer had three kills, 48 assists, two aces, 12 digs, and two blocks. Her team hit .191. Alexis Hamilton had 17 digs, three assists, and one ace.
NEBRASKA SWEEPS BAYLOR — Fifth-seeded Nebraska (16-2) may not have had middle Lauren Stivrins, but it didn’t matter as the Huskers overpowered Baylor 25-21, 25-17, 25-19.
Stivrins, who averages 3.93 kills per set, second on the team, and leads with 63 blocks, was out with an “undisclosed injury.”
Nebraska is in an NCAA regional final for the ninth year in a row.
Lexi Sun led Nebraska with 12 kills and hit .345 after having just two errors in 29 attacks. She had five aces, five digs, and a block. Madi Kubik added eight kills but hit negative, and had an assist, six digs, and two blocks. Callie Schwarzenbach had three kills, a dig, and five blocks.
Kayla Caffey had seven kills, hit .385, and had an assist, two digs, and three blocks. Jazz Sweet also had seven kills and had a dig and a block. Setter Nicklin Hames had four kills in eight errorless attempts, 31 assists, an ace, 11 digs, and three blocks. Her team hit .222. Kenzie Knuckles had 13 digs and three assists.
Baylor of the Big 12, which went to the 2019 national semifinals, ended its season 20-7.
The Bears, who hit .141, had only 31 kills. Yossiana Pressley led with almost half of them, 15, and she had two assists, five digs, and a block.
Lauren Harrison had six kills and two blocks. Hannah Sedwick had two kills, 21 assists, four digs, and a block.
TEXAS DOWNS PENN STATE — The fourth-seeded Longhorns, champions of the Big 12, hit .353 and won a fierce battle with Big Ten at-large Penn State, winning 23-25, 25-18, 30-28, 25-17, and the fourth set was one for the books.
Texas, which is in a regional final for the 25th time, got 22 kills from Logan Eggleston, who had an assist, an ace (but five errors), eight digs, and two blocks. Skylar Fields had 21 kills, hitting .500 after having three errors in 36 attacks. Asjia O’Neal had 13 kills with three errors in 20 swings and hit .500 and had an assist, a dig, and three blocks. Molly Phillips had eight kills, hit .312, and had three blocks. Brionne Butler had six kills with one error in 11 attacks and four blocks.
Setter Jhenna Gabriel had 55 assists, 18 digs, and a block. Sydney Peterson had 10 digs and an assist, Nalani Iosia had 10 kills, five assists, and an ace, and Morgan O’Brien had nine digs, two assists, and three aces.
With Stanford missing out, 13th-seeded Penn State is the only team to have played in every NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions went 10-6 in a season marred by numerous COVID-related cancelations.
Jonni Parker had 20 kills, 21 digs and four blocks. Kaitlyn Hord had 13 kills with one error in 27 attacks and five blocks. Annie Cate Fitzpatrick had nine kills, an ace, 14 digs, and a block. Anastasiya Kudryashova had eight kills, hit .333, and had an assist, a dig, and a block. Serena Gray had three kills, an ace, and four blocks.
Gabby Blossom had 46 assists, an ace, six digs, and two blocks. Maddy Bilinovic had 10 digs and two aces.
FLORIDA TOPS OHIO STATE — Eighth-seeded Florida (21-3), an at-large from the SEC, beat Big Ten at-large Ohio State (16-4), the ninth seed, 25-20, 26-24, 23-25, 25-16.
Florida, in a regional final for the 17th time, got 17 kills from T’Ara Ceasar, who had four assists, two aces, three blocks, and 11 digs. Thayer Hall had 11 kills, four assists, four blocks, and six digs. Setter Marlie Monserez had one of the best matches of her career with eight kills in 13 attempts with one error to hit .538, 35 assists, three aces, five blocks, and 15 digs. Her team hit .235.
Holly Carlton had seven kills, five blocks, and seven digs. Lauren Forte had six kills and seven blocks, and Lauren Dooley had four kills with no errors in eight attacks and eight blocks. Elli McKissock had 19 digs and four assists.
Ohio State hit just .139. Emily Londot led with 19 kills, two blocks, and 11 digs. Gabby Gonzalez had 12 kills, three assists, two blocks, and 11 digs. Rylee Rader had nine kills and five blocks, and Mac Podraza had five kills, 46 assists, an cam three blocks, and nine digs. Kylie Murr had 17 digs and four assists, and Hanna Gruensfelder had 17 digs, an assist, and an ace.
PURDUE BEATS OREGON — The seventh-seeded Boilermakers (16-6) are back in the round of eight for the first time since 2013 after their 25-16, 25-17, 22-25, 26-24 victory over 10th-seeded Oregon (15-5).
Caitlyn Newton led with 17 kills, an ace, three blocks, and five digs. Grace Cleveland had 15 kills with two errors in 37 attacks to hit .351, and added four blocks, and six digs. Jaela Johnson had 10 kills with one error in 19 attacks to hit .474 and had five blocks and a dig. Emma Ellis had six kills and three blocks, and Taylor Trammel had four kills and eight blocks, one solo.
Hayley Bush had three kills, 50 assists, two blocks and 21 digs. Her team hit .245. Jena Otec had 17 digs and five assists, while Marissa Hornung had 13 digs and Maddie Schermerhorn 11 and two assists.
Oregon hit .120. The Ducks got 13 kills and three blocks from Morgan Lewis and 12 kills from Gloria Mutiri, who hit .300 and had four blocks and two digs. Karson Bacon had eight kills, six blocks, and two digs. Brooke Nuneviller had eight kills, hit negative, but led with 22 digs.
KENTUCKY SWEEPS WKU — In the late match that also started late SEC-champion Kentucky hit .450 and got out of the gym in a hurry with a 25-20, 25-16, 25-10 sweep of Conference USA-champion Western Kentucky.
Kentucky (21-1), back in a regional final for the first time since 2017, had 47 kills with 11 errors in 80 attacks. Alli Stumler led with 17 kills as she hit .439 and had a solo block and four digs. Madi Skinner had 11 kills, hit .400, and had an assist, three blocks, and a dig. Azhani Tealer had eight kills with one error in nine swings, an ace, a block, and a dig. Avery Skinner had seven kills, hit .308, and added two assists, two blocks, and three digs.
Madison Lilley had two kills in four errorless tries, 38 assists, an ace, two blocks, and nine digs.
WKU, hit hit .093, got nine kills from Lauren Matthews, who had three blocks, one solo.
BELMONT ABBEY WINS CC TITLE — Second-seeded Belmont Abbey (15-7) beat top-seeded Mount Olive (13-4) in four to win the Conference Carolinas tournament and the league’s NCAA automatic bid.
This will be Belmont Abbey’s first NCAA trip. The men’s tournament is May 3-8 in Columbus, Ohio. Since the conference started getting an automatic bid in 2014, it has lost all six of its NCAA matches, although in 2019 Barton was the first team to take a set when it lost in four to Princeton.
Belmont Abbey hit .333 against Mount Olive, as Andrew Kohut had 21 kills and Matteo Miselli had 20. Kohut hit .351 and had three blocks and 10 digs. Miselli hit .325 and had five digs. Brennan Davis had 57 assists, an ace, two blocks, and six digs.
Tobi Azeez had 20 kills for Mount Olive to go with three aces, two blocks, and two digs. Eric Visgitis had 14 kills and his brother Luke had nine with one error in 13 attacks. Jarrod Ferguson had 51 assists, and eight digs.
Bogomolova’s magical run is why live sports are so awesome. Congrats to the Huskies (and I was cheering for Louisville!). ESPN’s camera work showing her going to the bench after she was done serving, capturing her reaction and the coach’s hug was fantastic!